DW Performance Series Bop Kit: Born In The USA
Up until a few years ago, DW manufactured only custom kits in its Oxnard, California facility, while less expensive PDP production model kits were manufactured offshore. This changed in late 2010 when DW began manufacturing a production kit domestically: the Performance Series. DW uses the same American Hard Rock maple for the Performance Series that it uses for its higher end maple kits – and the same True-Pitch tuning rods, MAG snare throw-offs – we could go on. But Collector’s Series kits sell for at least 30 percent more (as a starting point) because of their unlimited customizable options.
That is, with the Collector’s Series, your only limitation is your imagination. Dream up a size, color, configuration, whatever; DW will probably make it for you, and John Good will timbre match the kit’s shells to blend with each other. With the Performance Series, DW keeps prices down through various means: shells are not timbre matched; the Quarter Turret lugs are smaller than DW’s larger turret lugs; limited sizes and finishes are available; and the drums are typically sold as individual components or shell packs, not complete sets. For example, the Performance Series offers a 22" bass drum in an 18" depth, but not a 16" or 14" depth.
Not every drummer wants a 22" bass drum. For those who march to the beat of – here it comes – a different drummer, the Performance Series now allows for a traditional 4-piece bop configuration. The review kit I received consisted of three components that can be separately purchased: an 18" x 14" bass drum; a tom pack consisting of 12" x 8" and 14" x 14" drums; and a matching 14" x 5.5" maple snare. If you don’t like this combo, check out other available sizes on DW’s website, dwdrums.com.
In recent years, most new bop kits I’ve seen consist of either entry level offerings priced in the $500-$800 range or super custom getups that start at $2,400 or more. The 4-piece Performance Series bop kit I received sells for approximately $1,740 (street price, not list), so I was very intrigued to see how it would compare.
Out of the box, the shells’ flawless Tobacco Satin Oil finish immediately impressed me. It has no fading or blotchy spots, and its matte texture is silky smooth. Because a Satin Oil Finish requires less labor, it has the same lower price as the Performance Series FinishPly options (lacquer finish options cost more). The seemingly perfect oil-based finish on the inner maple veneer of each drum equally impressed me. In terms of the aesthetics, my only minor gripe is that shell interiors also receive a rather large grey colored paper badge that looks like a mini-certificate. To my eyes, grey does not match with maple. Although I like the “authenticity” that an inner paper badge gives a drum, I would prefer DW to choose a color that complements maple (e.g., ivory, beige, or white).
DW’s larger turret lugs are an iconic holdover that remained after DW bought the Camco Drum Company’s tooling years ago.
For the Performance Series, DW designed a smaller Quarter Turret lug. These smaller lugs are probably less expensive to manufacture than their larger siblings, but regardless of cost, I slightly prefer the look of the Quarter Turret lugs. With impeccable chroming, these lugs have the same basic look and quality as the larger lugs. But they’re small enough to avoid obfuscating the lovely finish on the shells. Furthermore, the STM tom mount on the Performance Series looks less bulky because the four lugs that it encompasses are smaller.
Earlier version Performance Series snares had the same Dual-Turret lug found on the less-expensive PDP Concept series snares. The Performance Series 14" x 5.5" snare I received has the newer single Quarter Turret lug (ten in total), which looks much better to me.
Tuning Can Actually Be Fun
Tuning these drums was about as easy at it gets. I attribute this to several factors. First, the flanged hoops are obviously high quality. Not only were they perfectly round, but they were finished impeccably with no rough spots along their edges or undersides. Secondly, the 45-degree back-cut bearing edges were expertly cut, which allowed me to quickly arrive at the same pitch at every lug. Third, the threading on the True-Pitch tuning rods is approximately 20 percent denser than standard rods. DW claims this allows for “more exacting” tuning. Maybe so, but frankly, standard tension rods provide me with as much exactitude as I need. Still, what I love about the True-Pitch rods is that they do a phenomenal job of holding the pitch of the head, even under heavy hitting.